Upon Further Review

Mike Zierath, Staff Columnist
Hawkeye Report

Another week in the books and things are starting to shape up. Might as well get right after it!

First, I have talked about parity in college football a couple different times. I was sitting and watching the Monday night game and realized that it extends to the NFL as well. The night began, and ended, with the Chiefs being the last undefeated professional team. I know long suffering Chief fans are basking in that warm glow for now. Having mentioned parity and undefeated, two weeks ago, there were 36 undefeated college teams. After last weekend, there are only 17 left in college football and that’s bound to continue the downward trend.

It’s still early, and while I’m not quite ready to admit that Florida State is out of college football playoff contention, let’s face it…….they are. A two loss team has never been invited to the party. All the talking heads want us to believe that this is the year a two loss team will get in, but that isn’t happening, unless the team with two losses is Alabama or Clemson. Speaking of Clemson, I wasn’t convinced that they were ready to defend their title coming in to this season. They are. Plain and simple, they are. They have a tough game this week against Wake Forest, and meetings with NC State and FSU on the horizon, but the way they are playing, they very well could walk away with the Atlantic division of the ACC.

Who will they meet in the ACC Championship game from the Coastal? They just dismantled Virginia Tech. Georgia Tech is always a possibility. However, I think the fighting Mark Richt’s of Miami are the most likely candidate. You know me, time will tell, but that is how I see it shaping up right now.

In the Big 12, it’s a three horse race. Oklahoma leads the way, followed by TCU and Oklahoma State. The rest of the Big 12 is on the outside, with their noses pushed up against the glass, looking in. A couple teams, West Virginia and Kansas State, could find their way back inside, but it is going to take a couple generous bounces for that to happen. I still think Okie State is the team that has a good chance to get back into playoff talk. They just have to take care of their business and go out there and win if they want that to happen. That date with Oklahoma is looking like a really big challenge. Oklahoma gets TCU the week after that, so maybe, TCU actually has the upper hand based on scheduling. I have a feeling it’s not going to be a straight road for whomever comes out the other side.

The Big Ten East is still a five team race. Yep, five! Maryland and MSU are still in the conversation, even if they are speaking through the screen door from the deck. Until someone knocks them off, until one of the three horsemen named Michigan, Ohio State or Penn State take the lead, it’s a five team race. Fortunately, it should start to work itself out this weekend as Ohio State plays Maryland and MSU plays Michigan.

In the West, it appears that the Badgers are the team to beat. Nebraska and Minnesota still have a shot, as do our own Hawkeyes, but it is becoming more and more apparent that the Badgers have the inside road to Indianapolis.

The Pac-12 had a wild weekend. My other closet football team (yes, it’s also about the Maroon and White), the Washington Cougars, pulled the upset over USC. Yes, I know, I picked that one right this week. Couldn’t help it. I know I said USC would be in the CFP, but my head and heart both said take Wazzu, so I did! It was fun to cheer for the crazy pirate and his band of crazy good misfits. Other teams that will have a say in the North? Washington is starting to gain my respect again this year. I wrote at the beginning of last year that I wasn’t sure they could run with the big dogs and that they were probably a year away. Guess what? That year is now. The Apple Cup might have a whole lot of meaning this season. Oregon and Stanford are likely to have a little bit to say about this. Way too early to crown anyone just yet.

In the South, since Wazzu just knocked off the favorite, it appears that the Utah Utes currently have the upper hand. If they can get past Stanford this weekend, it will set up a very big meeting with the Trojans in two weeks. Going to be a fun run!

The SEC is still Alabama and the rest. However, there appears to be a team ready to take a swing at them and that team is the Georgia Bulldogs. The Saban protégé has his Dawgs ready to take on anyone and everyone. Their toughest games ae going to be Florida, Auburn and Georgia Tech. I think they currently have the best shot winning the East and facing the Tide in the Championship. How can I just give the West to Alabama? Have you seen what they are up against? Okay, I’ll give you Auburn. That defense is good and the offense is coming around fairly quickly. The Iron Bowl is always pretty good, it might be another special one this year, but…………..Roll Tide. I think it comes down to Georgia and Alabama in the SEC Championship. And since I, and every other dummy in the country, had Alabama penned in to the final four, from a selfish standpoint, that’s great!

FSU is out. Okie State has their fate in their own hands at this point. So does USC. Bama is still rolling.

The older I get, the more relaxed and laid back I’ve become. I like it. I think my family likes it too. I find that I’m more emotional too. I feel like that big dufus in the Longest Yard that they were feeding Estrogen to some days. One thing I might do, once in a blue moon, is tear up a little. It happens on senior day. It happens when Kirk Ferentz puts in a kicker in a big moment with the game on the line and I’ve consumed a little too much alcohol. It happens when I’m proud, or happy, or sad. And it happened on Saturday when watching college game day when they showed the bit about the newest, and possibly the best, tradition in college sports. I was fine, right up to the time they said, “Okay, this next question is tough!” I immediately started to tear up a little. As a new, much younger, grandfather (or Papa as I’m known to those three), the thought of one of my children or grandchildren being up on one of those floors at the children’s hospital is almost more than I care to think about. Knowing that Brian Ferentz lost a daughter, and that it was instrumental in the donation that Kirk and Mary gave in their granddaughter’s name to the hospital, just makes it even more of an emotional moment. My first wife and I lost a child at 22 weeks. It sucked. I have a non-verbal grandson who has been diagnosed with a severe case of childhood apraxia of speech. In a nut shell, he doesn’t talk. And while he doesn’t have to be on that 12th floor, he may never have a “normal” life either. He could, depends on how well his 3 times a week therapy goes until he graduates from school. When I think about it, which is often, I count my blessings that it isn’t something worse and feel terrible for those parents and grandparents that are going through things that are much, much worse than what we go through each week. I get hugs and smiles and high fives and a grandson loaded with more energy than I have, that’s for sure. I’m sure others aren’t that lucky.

The great thing? I get to participate in this new college tradition this Saturday. My mind will be on those kids, and on my grandson. I know that the activity on the field, win or lose, is secondary to many people. I won’t tear up Saturday, I’ll smile, because that’s what we do when we support others who are less fortunate than we are. We smile and hope for better days for those folks.

And we wave.

I can’t wait.

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